DNA Testing Finds Trouble with Subway Chicken Meat - Dr. Axe

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DNA Testing Finds Trouble with Subway Chicken Meat (50% of Chicken Isn’t Chicken, Report Says)


Subway chicken meat - Dr. Axe

If you’ve ever consumed meat from a fast food chain, you may have questioned the quality of the protein you were eating, whether it was a hamburger or chicken nuggets. Now we can add Subway chicken meat to the list.

Personally, I know my uncertainty of fast food meat quality is one of the reasons why I avoid the majority of these chains. Now, a recent investigation suggests that when looking at five major fast food restaurants, none of their chicken was actually 100 percent chicken! Exactly how concerning were the results? Subway (the worst offender) is reportedly serving chicken, sweet onion chicken teriyaki to be exact, that is only a mind-blowing 42.8 percent chicken. That’s right folks — it’s not even half chicken, according to the report.

This analysis is yet another reason for consumers to pause before choosing a fast food meal. Ready to hear more of the DNA results and also how you can try to avoid eating such poor-quality fast food? Keep reading.

Is It Really Chicken? Scary Results of DNA Testing

Research recently requested by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) specifically looked at chicken quality from five fast food chains: McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Subway, A&W’s and Tim Horton’s. Subway is now suing CBC based on the alleged findings, however, CBC is standing by their report.

The report specifies the average score each item received: (1)


  • A&W Chicken Grill Deluxe: 89.4% chicken DNA
  • Wendy’s Grilled Chicken Sandwich: 88.5% chicken DNA
  • Tim Hortons Chipotle Chicken Grilled Wrap: 86.5% chicken DNA
  • McDonald’s Country Chicken – Grilled: 84.9% chicken DNA
  • Subway Oven Roasted Chicken Sandwich: 53.6% chicken DNA
  • Subway Sweet Onion Chicken Teriyaki (chicken strips): 42.8% chicken DNA

I do want to note that when chicken is completely unflavored and uncontaminated, it should score a perfect 100 percent when it comes to DNA testing. If a meat is processed and flavored through marination or seasoning for example, then this brings down the score a bit. But these scores were so far from 100 percent that it’s really worth questioning what else is going into these chicken sandwiches.

Subway Chicken Meat: If Not Chicken, then What?!

The first question on your mind after seeing these findings is likely to be what in the world are these chains using in their “chicken” other than real chicken meat?! The answer appears to be pretty straight forward — most of the non-chicken DNA appears to be soy. Now before you start thinking that’s a good thing, remember the dangers of soy. The majority of soy today, especially in the United States, is unfermented and genetically modified which makes soy extremely destructive to human health. Soy can be healthy when organic and fermented, but that’s the not the kind of soy we’re talking about here.

In addition to the soy content, the researchers also found that the fast food chicken contained a lot less protein compared to chicken you’d cook up at home. If you’re relying on for nutritional reasons, it could leave you protein deficient. The fast food chicken versions contained about “a quarter less protein than you would get in its home-cooked equivalent.” The majority of fast food chains are pretty well-known for their high sodium levels. What did this study find? The sodium content of the “meats” tested were somewhere between seven to 10 times higher than the sodium level of a unadulterated piece of real chicken. (2)

There’s still more. Each of the six meats tested contained an average of 16 ingredients each, making for a total of 50 different ingredients amongst the six samples. Some ingredients were less concerning like honey and onion powder, while others were more alarming, like “industrial ingredients.” Yes, these industrial ingredients may be government-approved, but that doesn’t mean they’re healthy. (3)

The Worst Offender: Subway Chicken Meat

A few months back, I told you about the Chain Reaction II report. This was a very revealing report that told us a lot about antibiotics in fast food. A scary 16 out of 25 fast food food purveyors scored an “F” rating in that report; only 2 received an “A”. How did Subway rank? Subway actually scored a “B” and likely gained patrons from this relatively decent score.

With this latest DNA testing, Subway’s chicken samples were basically found to be equal parts chicken and soy, or even more soy than chicken. It’s especially alarming since so many people are eating at Subway on a regular basis. Subway chains can be found all over the world with more than 44,000 locations in at least 110 countries. The sandwich chain has apparently been attracting plenty of consumers: it’s valued at more than $7 billion. (4)

What is Subway’s response to this DNA testing? A spokesman for Subway says, “Our chicken is 100 percent white meat with seasonings.” He also called the recent report “false and misleading” and demanded a “full retraction,” which has yet to come from the CBC.  Yet, Subway has also admitted that in order to stabilize moisture and texture, their oven-roasted chicken and chicken strips contain 1 percent or less of soy protein. (5) Sorry Subway, but the numbers seem quite off here for the soy content of your chicken: 1 percent (Subway’s claim) versus over 50 percent (DNA tests results).

How to Find the Safest Fast Food

The DNA results from these fast food meats are yet to be included in a scientific journal and I can’t personally attest to their accuracy. However, I do think they are worth considering. It’s worth trying your best to eat at healthier casual chains. Especially since this wouldn’t be the first time that a fast food chain used non-meat ingredients in its meat products. Back in 2014, word spread that McDonald’s, Burger King and other chains were including indigestible and nutrition-void wood pulp in their burgers. (6)

This is just one of the many questionable ingredients detected to date in fast food meats. It’s really frustrating how fast food chains continue to use questionable and unhealthy ingredients.

When you need to something to eat and you need it fast, look for chains that:

  • Reveal the sourcing of their ingredients, especially their meats, and ideally use meats that are free from antibiotics (at the least)
  • Have a track record of honesty and accountability
  • Use organic products and avoid GMOs
  • Opt for honey and maple syrup over health hazardous refined sugar and artificial sweeteners
  • Include local and seasonal ingredients in their offerings
  • Make it easy for you to know the ingredients and nutritional values of their food options

Unfortunately, we often don’t know what fast food chains don’t tell us. Subway previously received a “B” when it came to antibiotics in their meats, but now it looks like their chicken sandwiches are actually half chicken, half soy. We often can’t even trust what fast food chains do tell us since advertisements that say things like, “made from 100% chicken”, “all chicken”, and “made from real chicken” only really equates to you getting something that contains some amount of real chicken. It’s similar to how you have to question “all natural” these days.

Overall, we can just try our best to choose wisely and I’m always an encourager of eating more meals at home because that way you have much more control over the true contents of your next meal!

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